FCC Proposes Unlicensed Rules at 6 GHz Despite Industry Interference Concerns
Tuesday, October 23, 2018 | Comments

The FCC proposed making up to 1,200 megahertz of spectrum available for use by unlicensed devices in the 6 GHz band (5.925 – 7.125 GHz), despite numerous mission-critical communications industry concerns and filings.

“Unlicensed devices that employ Wi-Fi and other unlicensed standards have become indispensable for providing low-cost wireless connectivity in countless products used by American consumers,” the FCC said. “The proposed rules are designed to allow unlicensed devices to operate in the 6 GHz band without interfering with the operation of the licensed services that will continue to use this spectrum.”

The commission said that In those portions of the 6 GHz band that are heavily used by point-to-point microwave links, it proposes allowing unlicensed devices to operate where permitted by an automated frequency coordination system and invited comment as to whether this is necessary for devices operated only indoors.

Last year, mission-critical communications groups opposed expanded use of the 6 GHz bands for unlicensed and licensed broadband wireless fixed and mobile services, saying that the interference mitigation approaches that the FCC is considering would not be effective.

Specifically, the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International questioned an unlicensed 6 GHz band interference analysis. Verizon and the Fixed Wireless Communications Coalition (FWCC) joined APCO is questioning the study’s validity. The National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) also filed comments noting significant concerns about the potential for 6 GHz interference.

In the other portions of the band where licensed mobile services, such as the Broadcast Auxiliary Service (BAS) and Cable Television Relay Service operate, the unlicensed devices would be restricted to indoor operations at lower power.

“These proposed rules will allow a valuable spectrum resource to be more intensively used to benefit consumers while allowing the existing licensed uses of the 6 GHz band to continue uninterrupted,” an FCC notice said.

“There are issues to be resolved in this proceeding, for sure,” said FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr. “Would unlicensed use in the 6 GHz band cause harmful interference to incumbents? If so, how could we tailor protections that maximize use of the band? These are technical issues that require the input and engagement of all stakeholders. So, I encourage parties to work with the Commission to develop appropriate rules. And we need to do so expeditiously.”

The Utilties Technology Council (UTC) said the proposed rules could threaten utility networks. “Many of our nation’s electric, gas and water utilities rely on the 6 GHz spectrum band to underpin the reliable delivery of energy and water services to homes and businesses all over the country, said Joy Ditto, UTC president and CEO. "Although we understand the need for expanded wireless broadband, the risk of radio frequency interference to utilities’ mission-critical networks outweighs the potential benefits from unlicensed use of the band. We are greatly concerned that the proposed rulemaking as drafted would not sufficiently mitigate potential interference to utility systems from these new unlicensed operations.
“... There are many other bands that could be used for unlicensed, non-critical commercial operations; indeed, the commission has already opened up additional spectrum for unlicensed operations in other bands that have yet to be used to their full potential. At the same time, the FCC has not yet opened up any new bands for CII (critical infrastructure industries) use.  In fact, many utilities were forced to migrate to the 6 GHz band because the FCC reallocated other spectrum bands that utilities and other CII were already using for critical systems.”

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